Dear White People

Dear White People:

First off: you are not a race. You are a gradient of skin color that has, throughout much of human history, benefited from the absence of barriers toward power, wealth and privilege. That’s okay. Not all of you are bad. Not all of you intended to hurt others along the way. 

But let’s dispense with the niceties—being white helped you. 

Your skin pigmentation was and is complicit in the enslavement of Africans brought to America. Your skin pigmentation participated in the mass genocide of the Native-Americans, parceling and stealing land and resources, breaking treaties, and relegating them to invisible citizens living in sub-par human conditions even to this day.

And I hear you say: “But that wasn’t me!” Sure. You weren’t there. But your ancestors were. And you were born into the power structure set up by these atrocities. A paradigm that has—taken to its darkest realms—enabled thousands of Nazis to march, weapons in hand, upon a peaceful American city. It has enabled domestic terrorism. It has caused the death of a young woman, marching innocently along a city street when an irate white supremacist intentionally rammed into her and several others at 40 mph. Many of you watched it in terror and fear. Echoes of “How could this happen?” And “In 2017? Really?”

Really.

And this is where action happens. We have dispensed with our Facebook comments, and the requisite social media echo chamber of empathy and disgust. I know, because I have done so myself. But now we have a president who does not decry this violent action. The Nazis participating in yesterday’s march cosplayed in his golf clothes, quoted his speeches, and even celebrated his “many sides” speech as a victory. They are galvanized by the lack of police force against them. They ride the 1st Amendment wave toward violence, and in the case of yesterday—murder. In the public sphere. 

Our president has known white supremacist, alt-right and Nazi affiliates in his White House. Wake up. This is at your door now. It is not only affecting POC. It is shedding blood on the streets of Charlottesville and it is growing. March. Reach out to POC in your community. Sacrifice your time and your money to not only help those who are disadvantaged, but to resist and fight back. We all have a part to play. This will not “go away” and choosing to avoid the reality of our present political and social climate makes you complicit in domestic terrorism. It makes you complicit in the rise of Naziism in America. In 2017. Yes. 

For those not born into whiteness, this is nothing new. "The mask is off" is a phrase I heard and read repeated yesterday. It is a bitter pill. And if you are angry, disgusted, hurt, numb, crying, you can help. You are in a place to contribute toward good, whether it is through money, donations, marches, letters, phone calls, supporting Black Lives Matter and the numerous groups dedicated toward equality and restructuring our wildly imbalanced power structures. You can help. Today. Now.

Evil is not knocking at your door. It is here and it is moved in. What will you do? Your actions will make all the difference.

My Journey Through Toxic Anger

I don’t know the first time I realized I had a problem with anger.  It was a confluence of events—fights, usually escalated by me—between my ex-partner and I.  A criticism would be shared, usually something that reflected her efforts to create clearer communication and feel recognized, and like a regulatory function in my brain I saw it as an attack.

Pretty soon it’s going back and forth, voices rising in volume and throaty harshness, and then she’s a “BITCH” and I’m throwing my Iphone across the room, punching a doorframe, or walking out in a fury.  My blood pumping with adrenaline, I am convinced with total certainty that I have been ambushed, that I am an innocent bystander, that I was defiantly and nobly defending my honor from my partner’s betrayal.  If she loved me, then why would she criticize me so harshly?

In time, the tension would ease—often after the shedding of tears.  My rational mind would kick in and I would apologize, genuinely, for my behavior.  Oftentimes, I could not remember the words I had said in the moment.  I would cry too, citing my fear of abandonment, of rejection, of feeling unlovable.  I lashed out because I was scared.  Violent language was my defense against the perimeter I had built to maintain stability.  My words were retaliatory blanks, fired off to reduce me from boiling over.  But when you are on the receiving end such hatred, absorbing the volley of epithets and curse words and insults designed to hurt, you cannot forget.  It stays with you, brands into your thoughts.  It was and is, abuse. 

I think it was easier for me to defer confronting my toxic anger because I never raised a hand to directly hurt my partner.  I believed that abuse, in its definitive form, was attacking someone physically.  I may have clenched my fists and thrown objects, but never at her, so how could that be me?  That wasn’t me.

Except, it absolutely was.

The truth is, it really doesn’t fucking matter if you ever hit someone.  Words are violence.  And when you are intimately connected with a partner, you know their weak spots, the chinks in their armor.  You’re entrusted to protect those places, but in my moments of rage I would swiftly use them to my advantage.  You hurt me so now I will hurt you tenfold.  All the while, believing that, because I was demonstrating assertiveness, my partner would not think I was weak.  She would see I could stand up for myself and be even more in love with me.

There are numerous root causes for what is often deemed “toxic anger”, and much of it is pervasive in masculine culture.   Emotional vulnerability is not the paramount lesson of young boyhood, but it very well should be.  We teach our young men to “man up” and carry themselves with stoicism and boldness.  We advocate extremes that negate the multi-faceted emotional landscape of being a human.  Our parents do it.  Our coaches do it.  And our young men repeat it, and condition it into one another. 

As a child and teenager, I was never the strongest or most gifted athlete.  I cried easily, and I remember the jeers, heckling and even physical taunts of my peers-- both male and female.—because of it.  I was a fag, a pussy, or just a woman.  And I was desperate to relieve myself of what I saw as an inherently faulted personality.

So over the years, I used anger to defeat my fear of being ostracized.  It emboldened me.  When I roared, the room quieted.  The laughter stopped.  But mostly it caused devastation, and mistrust amongst my partners over the years. You lash out at loved ones enough, and eventually they will pull away.  I’m lucky in that my most recent partner loved me enough to tell me how much I was hurting her when I lashed out.  She encouraged me to seek help, therapy and healing to dissolve my anger.  She established her own boundaries, took space and time for herself.  That takes tremendous courage.  And love. 

And I still have flare ups.  Sometimes I take criticism of an action as criticism of me and before I know it I absolutely cannot be fucked with.  It’s my own version of going on a bender.  I reemerge bleary eyed, amazed at the damage I have caused in so little time.  It’s mortifying at first, but I learn more each time.  I write.  I speak to my therapist.  I cry.  Yes, I fucking weep, and I dig deep into the depths of emotional sludge that we try and hide away within ourselves and upchuck it onto the floor.  It’s messy and sometimes downright terrifying, but when you face it, it disappears.  Little by little. 

And I’ll take that.  Small steps.  Incremental pushes toward the light, toward good, toward healing.  A little more open, everyday.   

New Postcard Set!

Hey all! I've got a brand new, limited-edition set of "Desert" postcards coming for the holidays.  For those interested in prints, but wishing to get more for their dough! Check out the images below, and I'll post more info as they arrive.  Orders will cost $25 for a set of 10, taking about 2-3 weeks for delivery after ordering and printing.

E-mail: philipmcp@gmail.com for inquiries! 

Student Loan Woes

I just looked at my bank account, and I nearly cried: another 800 dollars deducted. My monthly pound of flesh to the banks and the federal government for my higher education.  My monthly sacrifice for making the step I was told was "necessary" for job placement, ascension, and overall financial security.  That's the American lie: go into debt so you can rise above it! 

In 2003, at the time I enrolled in college, my parents were advised that the combination of my paltry scholarship and loans would "pay themselves off quickly". 8 years after graduation and I am still stressing every month, delaying payments, avoiding calls from the banks if I happen to forget to pay on time or simply don't have the scratch.  I've been paying my loans for almost a decade, and my debt is still lingering near 100,000.  In 20-25 years, when I turn 50 or 55--and if my income remains steady and I don't get sick or have children or do anything financially extraneous--I will be debt free.

I've been a professional actor for over 5 years, booking over 15 national commercials, so you'd think I'd be flush with cash, right? No. I do well enough to keep my used 1999 Honda Accord running, pay small payments on my credit card (debt from my first year as a struggling actor used to pay utility bills and acting courses), buy groceries, and pay for the astronomically bloated LA rents that continue to rise. I don't really drink. I don't rack up expensive shopping bills.  When I travel, it is for work, to visit (and work) with family, or to drive and camp on the cheap. My checks come in waves, and when they do, Uncle Sam takes a hefty fucking chunk to pay for god knows what kind of military vehicle that will probably end up in some storage facility in Baker or to cover some degenerate senator's call girl.  Everything revolves around paying these loans.

And it makes me so goddamned angry.  Was it a choice? Yes.  No one forced my hand so I would co-sign these loans with my parents. But what was I supposed to do? Every elder in my life was advising me to leap for the big film school at USC, the gateway to Hollywood, the guaranteed pearly gates entry into studios and movie stars and shitty traffic and no rain.  So what if I had to borrow a little? That was far off, and the big paychecks I read about in magazines pretty much ensured that I'd get some magical giant check a-la Publishers Clearing House and all would be forgotten while I drank a mai thai in Malibu.  My parents weren't misleading me--they were being misled.  

And all that baby-boomer bullshit about guaranteed dough at the end of the rainbow came crashing down in 2008.  Remember that? Yeah, it was only 7 years ago, but at the rate I'm seeing evictions in LA, it might as well have been 100.  Prices are going up: gas is near 5 dollars, rent has tripled in some areas of LA, and the scarcity of food and clean water is a boom for the providers--not those that need these basic necessities.  I don't know any friend whose base wages have increased. I keep working, doing manual labor, modeling, acting, commercials, construction, woodwork, and selling my photography.  Whatever it takes.  I have consistent food, shelter and family, and I am damn grateful.

But when I read articles about how millennials are ungrateful and don't appreciate hard work, I wonder if the author is just talking about their co-worker's son and daughter that live off a trust fund and were shitty interns one summer because all they really wanted to do was go to Ft. Tilden and get drunk. Cause that is not me. I don't fuck around, and I hardly do anything to excess because that is not a fucking option.   

There doesn't seem to be any end in sight for this student loan crisis.  Even now I hear of some private tuitions costing upwards of 60,000 a year and honestly that is a fucking joke.  There have been times I felt like killing myself because this debt is never-ending.  But if I die the banks will go after my parents.  Did you know that? There is no forgiveness for this shit, even in death.  

So if you're raising kids and a college fund is out of the question, I suggest you put your pride aside and go for community college.  Or school in Europe.  And if you're going into the arts, don't even go to college at all.  Just audit some of the lectures, move into an apartment nearby and make friends.  College is mostly about being social and learning to live outside the parameters of parents.

If you really want millennials to stimulate the economy, then lower tuition prices to reflect the reality of our incomes, which really aren't that high.  Or hell, maybe even make some of the schools free. There's a place called Europe (again) that does that to great results, I hear.  I can't imagine all of the ways I could have contributed to this country's economic growth if I had the extra 10-12 thousand I pay each year to B of A and the gov't on principal and (mostly) interest.  Where does it go?  

So don't call me a lazy, ungrateful millennial.  I have no retirement.  I have no savings.  I'm working my ass off to make it work, to take financial risks that reap rewards while still working within a broken system.  I didn't break it, and I have every right to bitch about it. 

Return to Wyoming

Sera and I recently went back to my father's ranch in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming for the second time this year, to decompress, visit family, and recuperate from a month of manic activity.  It continues to astound us the amount of mental clarity that comes when we remove ourselves from city life.  Traffic din and police choppers are replaced with the sounds of horse hooves on rain-cleansed soil, the migration calls of sandhill cranes and distant thunder cries across the mountain peaks.

The first day often feels like reverse culture shock, our bodies and thoughts unaccustomed to stillness and open space.  But after the first night's meal, and a poetry reading of the requisite Billy Collins poem "The Revenant" at the dining room table, we ease ourselves into the pace of ranch life.  By day, we help with whatever chores need to be done: weed pulling, laying irrigation pipe, mucking horse manure, tilling the soil for the Spring crop, and feeding the animals. 

The eight equine residents of the ranch--all of them rescues who work summers as therapy horses for the Wyoming Boys School and local war veterans--grazed just outside our summer camper.  Even after spending months with them as my bedroom window companions in the past, I still find them infinitely fascinating as creatures of healing power. 

A few days into our trip, we were visited by Sera's father Steve.  Having grown up on a farm himself, Steve took to the open space with the quiet contemplation of a man returning to a sacred space.  Our walk to the mud swallow nests at the cliffs above the canals brought an added serenity--unbeknownst to me, Steve has had a lifelong fascination with the swallow.  Their fervent swirling flight as we walked beside the cliffs brought him to a church-like calm.  

Now, at home beside our computers and electronic devices and demands and commitments, we find ourselves assessing and reassessing how we live.  Are we maintaining this Earth with the same commitment as my father and stepmother? Are we simply idealizing our trips to Wyoming since they are free of financial commitments to maintaining a ranch (while we visited, the irrigation canal needed emergency repair and one horse required medical care for anxiety-produced foot pain)? There's probably not a simple answer.  But we take solace in knowing that there's a refuge out there hidden away from the melee of the modern world.  A space for afternoon naps and home-cooked meals.  A space to just be, and breathe.

Projection LA

Last week, Sera and I drove past the derelict Sunset Pacific Motel--a long since abandoned apartment complex known locally as "The Bates Motel" due to it actually being on the corner of Bates and Sunset--and found it to be covered in white paint.   The installment turned out to be that of French artist Vincent LaMouroux, who got permission to limewash the neighborhood staple before developer Frost/Chaddock demolishes the building to make way for a 122-unit live/work/retail space.  A last hurrah before gentrification kicks in called #ProjectionLA.

I snapped a role on a bleary mid-afternoon, using what was--unbeknownst to me--a rejected overexposed role from Sera's point-and-shoot.  Our developer called me the night before I was set to pick up my processed scans, warning me that the shots were "reallllly white and overexposed" and were mostly "random double exposures".  In the end, the roll wasn't "perfect", but the beauty of film is that mistakes can become happy accidents.

ProjectionLA opens to the public on Sunday, April 26th.